Photo: What is pancake ice?

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38 of 1052

Our photo of the day beautifully reveals one of Mother Nature's loveliest tricks with ice.

Knowing that Duluth, Minnesota was expecting one of the coldest nights of the year, photographer Bryan French made a point of getting up early to "enjoy the sunrise." (Nature photography as an extreme sport.) Mother Nature and Lake Superior did not disappoint, as evidenced by this gorgeous shot of, as Bryan writes, "pancake ice, a faint sundog, and the sunrise, all mixed together with the lake's exhale of summer."

But what exactly is pancake ice? How do these icy lily pads come to be?!

National Geographic explains that conditions for this phenomenon must be just right – the discs form when waves push pieces of ice together which rounds their edges. As the rounded pieces hit waves, raised edges develop and further the pancake effect. While pancake ice usually occurs in the coldest oceans – like around Antarctica and the Baltic Sea – the magic also happens in the frigid waters of the Great Lakes, awaiting photographers willing to brave the chill!

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